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Issue of November 2005 

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Formulating the perfect system

SRL Ranbaxy’s CLIMS, a home-grown ERP solution, was the first of its kind in the healthcare segment. It helped centralise and consolidate business-critical information and made it easier for customers to get data. by Shivani Shinde

G Radhakrishna Pillai
Head, IT
SRL Ranbaxy

SRL Ranbaxy needs no introduction. An Indian success story in the healthcare sector, the company operates out of a central laboratory in Mumbai and has 15 satellite labs across the country servicing more than 365 Indian cities and other countries (Britain, UAE, Sri Lanka, and Nepal).

SRL’s Centralised Lab Information Management System (CLIMS) is the result of integrating all its processes into a single system. The company could have bought a packaged ERP system, but due to the nature of the processes, it deployed an in-house ERP customised to its needs.

The power of the solution to centralise information and advanced features such as encrypted Web and e-mail-based reporting provide a great deal of flexibility to the business. This initiative has helped the company bag the Intelligent Enterprise award in the healthcare category.

Need For CLIMS

As G Radhakrishna Pillai, Head of IT at SRL Ranbaxy explains, “In healthcare services a complete enterprise application package is not available locally or outside the country. What’s available are a few Lab Information Systems (LIS) or Hospital Information Systems (HIS). Even the LIS is not a complete enterprise application.”

Prior to adopting CLIMS, the company used an LIS which was not Y2K-complaint, did not support other business functions, and had no support available in India. “So we decided to tailor-make an application to support all the process of our central reference lab. It was difficult for us to decide whether to go ahead with a tailor-made application to suit us and which would match international standards and protocols,” adds Pillai.

CLIMS now includes lab-operations, material management, billing, financial accounting, customer care, sales and marketing, logistics, clinical trail, and an instrument interface.

However, deciding on a home-grown solution was not an easy decision to make. Pillai says that one of the choices was to select any of the packaged LIS systems and integrate it with a standard ERP system to address the needs of other business functions. Initially, the company outsourced the development work to a CMM level 5 company, but later all development activities was done by a dedicated in-house team.

Another reason for using an in-house system was the inability ERP players to offer solutions that would combine the functionalities of lab management and other business operations such as materials and accounts.

Centralise And Consolidate

The Winning Habit

Winning an award always gives a good feeling and generates positive energy within the team and also within the enterprise. My team and I feel charged up after receiving the recognition, especially since it is from The Indian Express group. It has encouraged us to strive for excellence.

G Radhakrishna Pillai
Head, IT
SRL Ranbaxy

Earlier, technology support came from the parent company and LIS was used only for lab operations. Thus, SRL Ranbaxy was using a heterogeneous system for various functions (FACT for accounts and a billing system called Delta). Though the LIS took care of the scientific side of operations it did not have the functionalities of an ERP, where aspects such as bill receivables, material and client management are more relevant.

Since there was no centralised system, normal or basic testing was done at the local lab but depending on the nature of the test the specialised testing was done at the Central Lab. Even though customers were dealing with SRL, they would end up with two invoices. Similarly, a single client would have two different IDs, one for the local lab and the other for the Central Lab, which was duplication of work at the accountant’s end.

This is why the company needed to centralise and consolidate data from the LMS to the Central Lab. Says Pillai, “In June 2004, we decided to develop a centralised system with more features and also migrate the back-end Oracle database from 8i to 9i and front-end from Powerbuilder 7 to Powerbuilder 9. We also Web-enabled some of the MIS and transaction reports using .NET technology.”

All instruments have been interfaced bi-directionally as well as uni-directionally depending on the analyser’s capability. “Over a period of time we have acquired in-house expertise in interfacing instruments compliant to any of the RS232 or ASTM protocols,” says Pillai. Due to this they have fully-automated the testing process by reducing manual intervention by the scientific officers.

Gaining Ground

Other Nominees
  • Wockhardt Limited's HIRePs, which is a Hospital Information System (HIS) based on MS Windows server system integrated server software at its hospitals in Mumbai, Nagpur, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
  • Fortis Healthcare's HIS deployed in four hospitals and one city OPD serving different market segments and spread across North India. The system automated IPD & OP billing, and allowed inventory management.

Pillai believes that IT has been the backbone of SRL’s operations from day one. Over a period of time it has helped improve efficiency, accuracy, and service quality to assist doctors and patients to optimise healthcare. In turn, SRL has become an IT-driven knowledge company.

Today, explains Pillai, the company is totally dependent on IT from end-to-end. “Even though we are in the business of diagnostics, if IT stops, everything will come to a standstill. SRL’s business criticality is much more crucial than many financial companies because we have to serve on a 24x7 basis. Any delay in service will cause not only a business loss for the company but could also be a loss for the patient.”

“I do not think that this kind of an enterprise-wide application is available anywhere else in the world,” says Pillai. This is because, in the healthcare segment, application developers focus more on the core operation area rather than other support areas that are critical to the business.

SRL’s Centralised Lab Information Management System has revolutionised the diagnostics result delivery mechanism by introducing encrypted e-mail and Web-based reporting thereby creating a first-mover advantage for the company

SRL’s new system is being used in 16 labs nationwide by doctors who prescribe the test, along with around 275 internal users, 300 franchisee collection centres, 3,000-odd clinical labs, and hospitals. In the Central Lab the company processes and creates reports for more than 3,500 patients in any single day.

Leading The Way

Pillai believes that this is the first-of-its-kind system in the healthcare sector. These systems have revolutionised the diagnostics result delivery mechanism by introducing encrypted e-mail and Web-based reporting thereby creating a first mover advantage for the company. The advantages include Turn Around Time (TAT) saving since maximum reports are sent electronically, report delivery is not dependent on courier efficiency and is not affected by courier/airline staff strike, national bandhs, and climatic conditions. The company is able to provide an uninterrupted service.

Other than the improvement in TAT, productivity and accuracy of the testing at the pre and post-analytical stages have improved. In some of the high volume sections such as biochemistry, endocrinology, haematology, 50 percent of the staff can now invest their time in other productive work.

Bar coding of all the samples has been done for better tracking as well as for the instrument to understand that a test has been completed for a particular sample.

Roadmap: Repository and DR

The future roadmap of the company entails connecting all the laboratories to the central reference lab and five labs have already been connected. All the remaining and upcoming labs will be connected within a year, which will enable SRL to have a large data depository for the patient disease and test information. This will also work as a DR site for local labs.

“I want to make the homegrown ERP as a product so that continuous improvement in the process and technology will be a part of the strategy. We will also endeavour to maintain a global standard in the operation,” says Pillai.

Project Snapshot

Started: October 2004

Completed: March 2005

Cost: Rs 53 lakh

Objective: To create a system that is centralised and information is consolidated. To make use of barcoded sample tagging and bi-directional interface with analysers, recipes analysis, result reporting (Web or e-mail based), centralised Customer Care Group (CCG), centralised accounting, and MIS consolidation.

Innovation: Achieving the objectives has been the biggest innovation for SRL. The company uses bar coding and instrument interfaces to make identification easier. It also uses encrypted e-mail and Web-based reporting, and consumption vs recipe and stock management.

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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